03 Nov How SEO can drive your marketing strategy and budgets
If you want to learn how to drive more traffic on your website but you haven’t connected that with your marketing strategy, it’s time to stop here and spend some time on the diagram I made here. The blueprint you see above is what I use with my clients in the optimization of their SEO strategy and marketing budgets.
Because most of my client’s work is confidential, I will give you one of my own examples of good SEO strategies for my personal blog, here on Medium. I’ve been writing on Medium regularly for more than 1 year. Most of the time invested paid off. You can read here why.
As we’re trying to make sense of what SEO is, we might want to search it on Google and see how many results we have on that. The first few answers will already deliver enough value that we won’t feel the need to go further. The NEED is the right way to approach the SEO game in the end.
The impulse is to optimize for perfection in the metrics, but the real need of our users should be the primary driver for any strategic decision on this aspect.
This was the first major update in the algorithm brought by Google in 2003 through the release called Florida. SEO was forever changed from that perspective. In its pursuit to become more user friendly and to attract more users, Google is continuously releasing new updates in their over 800 criteria to rank your website.
As we see in my example, the article that drives the most traffic on my blog is optimized for Google search so much that it ranks 5 in organic searches in my country. I bet it ranks on the first page for most English speaking countries as well.
SEO is not simply a source of traffic, but also a good source of what people are looking for in products
For the last months during the quarantine, I thought that the word “honeymoon” ranks me so high up in the search engine because people are canceling honeymoons and trips due to Corona. But in reality, people were “ “canceling” their relationships because of the lockdown and were looking for solutions to make this relationship phase last longer. Also, the downside of having so many views is that some of the people landing on the content will not be able to fully engage with it because they are not ready for the level of psychology ( in my case) or technical expertise needed to understand the content. This might look bad for your bounce rate and in time might decrease in relevance for certain users. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google follows the user experience. If they spend enough time on your website coming from the search query, it means Google will keep you ranking highly in its algorithm.
We can see further the impact of one keyword in the traffic increase on the blog by looking at the spike of data. It begins approximately 6 weeks into the lockdown in the US and 8 weeks into the one in Europe despite the article being published on the 16th of March which was the beginning of the quarantine for EU countries. Of course, correlation is not causation and data analysis doesn’t do full justice to the reasons why people might be looking at the article as much as they do, but once again, a cornerstone article proves that SEO works well if you’re able to summarize your work in such a way that you bring value to your audience. So you need to see the value beyond the keyword.
In this case, the value comes from the combination of the keyword “Honeymoon” with the connector “phase” that describes more the scope.
The ingredients that make up a good analysis for your SEO strategy can be found by answering some of the following questions:
– What is the combination of keyword and connector that does the trick for you to rank higher in the search?
- When does your user read your content? — we might think of days, correlations with other global or local agendas according to the type of content you produce and the niche you address it to, but also more granularly, time of day when they read it and maybe duration in correlation (because you are interested in the duration also as a separate element, but you also want to see if you get traffic more on specific hours but also higher bounce or more time in a high traffic period). If they read your content in the mornings for example, could it be that they are reading it while they commute? Could it be on the toilet instead of a newspaper? Could it be in the office with the first coffee before they start the day? Depending on the content type you will find more patterns by looking at the data and you can optimize your titles to be click-worthy ( notice how I don’t encourage clickbait) for your user.
- What is the time span they spend reading your content? — on average, how much time do they need to read your content? Is it easy to digest? All the SEO tools that help you edit your texts will show you how fast someone can read it and get the relevant information from it. But Medium as a platform is also optimizing for time duration spent on their articles. The design of the platform enables users to read the content even if it’s lengthy and complex. They have a way to use subtitles, highlights, and other tricks that captivate the user to engage longer. If that doesn’t offer enough information about what keeps them longer try to correlate the time with the device information. That’s also an individual metric to measure.
- What’s the device used for reading your content? — you think you are optimizing only for traffic and keywords, but you should also notice the behavior coming from different devices. What is the goal of your content? To sell? To spend time reading ( like here on Medium where time spend is monetized)? How will you monetize the content using the device metric? If most of your users read via mobile, but you are trying to sell really complex products and the problem needs more time to be analyzed before making a purchase consider that your content is just one step of the conversion funnel, and don’t rush into the buying decision. Leave a breadcrumb for your user to be able to come back to the essentials in your content in a different time and format when they are much more likely to buy. For these reasons and more, SEO is very much connected to the customer journey part that enables users to become clients.
- What is the nationality of the culture of your main source of traffic? — I see many clients that get this part wrong. They optimize SEO for the search engine but forget the cultural differences that make different countries look for information in fundamentally different ways. For example in my case with the Honeymoon phase of the relationship, the EU English-speaking Googlers that ended up in my article are a lot less than my US users who use this term to talk about their relationship phases. Having this massive difference between my “tribes” I can easily rewrite my article in other words for my European audience and publish it to test the hypothesis that my traffic can be the same despite having the globalization and standardization applied to this audience of relationship advice-seekers around the world. Even the “guru’s” of this industry notice the difference between the cultures and adjust their SEO to convert by cultural biases as well.
- What’s the bounce rate on your articles? — Sometimes, Google might have a crawling rate for your website that overloads the server with requests but doesn’t produce real traffic. Check this aspect by talking to your developer and offering them documentation on how to prevent this from increasing your bounce rate for technical issues. If there’s no technical issue with regards to your website traffic, then you will have a content problem connected to the bounce rate. Optimizing that can be an SEO article on its own as it’s all about titles, subtitles, meta descriptions, and the effects of the content on the user after they decided to click it in the first place.
- What’s your canonical link builder looking like? — Google will look at your most relevant domain link and link building strategy to show content. If you have links that differ but show the same content, the duplicate will not help you increase relevance. It’s best to decide how you will be using the content strategy to attract your users and what is the process to optimize for conversion according to your conversion goal. Let’s say that you have content for a marketplace or e-commerce platform and you want to attract readers that will buy after they read. The easiest way is to make different link building strategies for the content than the product’s part. You might want to consider that people would share your content and making the link short is essential whereas the product part will have a longer URL because you include the category. See here some explanation on how to do that from Google. Also, the shorter URLs rank a lot better in Google according to this chart. So you can benefit from free organic traffic on your content and optimize the hook building for your product on the website. Basically, with good content, you will create great backlinks to help your product pages rank higher as well.
So after all these questions, are you really focusing on the things that move the needle? How can you find out?
Combine the SEO with your customer journey stages and triggers on the customer journey according to the stage.
The stage is not the same as a funnel! So make sure you have that separated in your mind.
If you’ve got this far, then you really care about creating the right content for your audience so as to bring meaning and value beyond the commercial goal.
Optimizing your marketing budget
Depending on your insights on what people want and expect from your product you will spend time building content in the constellation of decisions they are making as well. That will make them go differently about buying your product and paying attention to your product without dismissing your ads. Paid social and paid content will enable you to increase the relevance of the content even more while benefiting from the long-term effects of the initial push through organic search ( see brand protect strategy for SEA as a way to increase domain authority for example as explained in the header image of this article with the mindmap). If your content captivated a lot of users then even if it’s through paid campaigns, your links will increase in ranking on Google and bring “evergreen” traffic even months after the paid campaign ended.
But the most important part of optimizing your budget is in the combination of tactics from SEO and SEA as well as paid social media campaigns. Depending on the type of product you have ( commercial or non-commercial) and the type of engagement ( and call to action you require from your audience) you will have to intersect the strategies you have for SEO with your persona mapping in the marketing channels you use. For this reason, the further drill in the sales or conversion funnel of your prospect to becoming a user will be connected to how you tackle the unique profile of your audience persona with the investments you make on your website ranking strategy.
How to create an evergreen connection between SEO and persona mapping
One of the most important and recent Google updates that help businesses generate more organic traffic is connected to 2 specific pillars which are the mission and values of Google today:
- Educational content
- Personalized content
For these 2 pillars to function 2 well in your SEO and marketing balance you want to be able to continuously update your content to what people search for, offer on-point information that educates your audience in their 4 stages to become your engaged user and customer but also to keep track of how your customer shift perspectives. That’s why I recommend using an auxiliary tool to assist you in keeping the persona mapping and lifecycles ongoing rather than static: Milkymap.
Milkymap is not just a customer journey mapping tool. You can use plenty of whiteboard tools for that. What Milkymap does from a governance perspective is that it puts the layers of decision making in a continuous state of change in the lifecycle of your product.
In the example managed here with Milkymap platform, we see how companies can improve their data-driven strategies not just through tactical and operational improvements but also through a good correlation between SEO optimization and data gathered from analytics and traffic on your main keywords and the marketing efforts on social, paid and own channels.
Finally, becoming data-driven as an organization will require a holistic overview of how you rank in the search engines with relevance for your ever-changing business together with current and future customers.
Originally published here: